3 Budget Travel Tips for Solo Travelers

As a perpetual solo traveler and someone who is always on the lookout for the next big adventure around the world, it can be a fine line trying to stay on budget and make your dream trip come true at the same time.

While more often than not I find myself traveling alone, on the occasions that I travel with friends I haven’t found it to be noticeably cheaper, or cheap enough to discourage my solo escapades in exchange for group travel.

With some careful planning and awareness, not only is solo travel possible but also pretty easy.

1. Single person deals on accommodation

Alone in Moeraki - a small fishing village on the east coast of New Zealand.
Alone in Moeraki – a small fishing village on the east coast of New Zealand.

I think many people are under the impression that if you are traveling by yourself, accommodation is more expensive.

Personally, I haven’t really found that to be the case. Most hotel booking sites or house rentals ask how many people are looking for a room and the number of rooms, and many times you get a different quote for single occupancy.

Sometimes if that isn’t the case, I’ve contacted hotels directly via phone or email saying it’s just one person in a double room (if single room prices aren’t an option) and I get a discount.

If you are traveling alone and don’t mind staying in a hostel, then you pay per person per bed which usually is drastically cheaper. And my best tip of all, if you can be flexible with accommodation, the later you book the better deal you get.

Nowadays, I don’t even book in advance unless I have to, I find the place I want to stay online on a booking site, and then phone the hotel directly to enquirer about prices and book whichever one is cheaper.

Read More: 18 Helpful tips for Finding Cheap Accommodation

2. Transportation

The Catlins - New Zealand
I made it to the southern most point of New Zealand

Personally I find transportation to be much friendlier for solo travelers than the other way around.

The one time I volunteered to sort out transport on a group trip, I gave up after a day and had to delegate the task onto someone else with more patience than me. After all time is money.

For me the only time staying on budget with transportation comes into question is with car or campervan rentals, though that hasn’t stopped me in recent years. Check out my campervan trip in New Zealand.

It just means I have to get creative with my budget. Between the cost of the hire, insurance, gas, and parking costs for campervans, it can get expensive.

Here are some ways I cut down costs on rentals:

  • First off, I get the cheapest rental with basic insurance online in advance, not in the airport when I arrive. I go through all of the sites and look for deals until I find a good one from a good company. Oftentimes car hires have weekly discount rates too.
  • Until recently, my car/property insurance in the US covered rentals overseas as well, or if you book travel insurance, this might help you save on insurance costs at the rental company.
  • One of my best secrets are rental relocations, especially for campervans. Oftentimes a rental company with give you a free or $1 a day rental for you to move it between cities for them. For example in New Zealand, it’s very common to fly into Auckland, rent a car and drive all the way to Queenstown and fly out. If you go the opposite direction, you can likely move a vehicle back to Auckland for very little. Oftentimes they’ll include a tank of gas ($100+) and a ferry ticket as well.
On my road trip in New Zealand in my Juicy camper
On my road trip in New Zealand in my Juicy camper

Gas is gas and apart from driving less and saving more, there isn’t too much I can offer for you there.

There are apps and ways to look online to find the best gas prices to help you save. Most holiday parks, at least in New Zealand have a cheaper rate for solo travelers in campervans as well, so if you are traveling alone, you don’t have to pay a higher rate. This isn’t assumed though so make sure you say that when you book in.

Read More: Finding cheap car rental

3. Food

Cooking pizzas in Italy, as you do!
I cooked pizzas in Italy, as you do!

Most group travelers save on food by cooking together and sharing meals, something intrinsically more difficult to do as a solo traveler.

Often times when I am staying in hostels or guesthouses with communal kitchens and end up making friends with the other people staying, we would sometimes cook a dinner together, but not always.

Generally I try to stay in places where breakfast is included so that leaves lunch and dinner to sort out for myself. As a rule, I usually have a proper meal and light, snack meal per day to keep costs down, though costs vary so widely depending on where you are in the world.

Many places meals are so cheap you don’t even have to budget for them while in others they can break the bank, I try to do a daily meal budget wherever I am if I have to be careful and stick to it.

If you are by yourself, eating and meals is so easy because you can do whatever you want and don’t have to compromise on anything.

Over the years I find I spend less feeding myself when I am alone than when I am with others because there is less of an urge to go out and take on the city and go a little crazy. And I certainly save on alcohol when I am alone, a total bonus.

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Some think traveling solo can be more expensive as you don't have someone to split costs with. Check out these 3 budget travel tips to help lower your costs